G7 Summit: Japanese win right to nuclear weapons

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The Independent Online
JAPAN celebrated its right to a possible future nuclear arsenal yesterday as the Group of Seven industrial nations limited their call for observation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NFT) to 'universal adherence', while also urging a reduction in nuclear arms.

Japanese officials said an earlier suggestion to demand 'unconditional adherence' had been dropped, allowing Japan to acquire a self-defence capability in the event of a regional threat - in other words, should North Korea, which has threatened to leave the NPT, be proved to have nuclear arms.

The assertive stance by Japan reflects the fact that while nuclear weapons remain taboo among the public here, the idea of the right to a self-defence capability is gaining popularity in the political and military establishment. It is also indicative of Japan's desire to achieve an independent foreign policy and permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

A European G7 official said: 'Far from being surprising, it falls understandably within the logic of the region.' The G7 political declaration also called for an extension of the treaty beyond its current span: 'We reiterate the objectives of universal adherence to the NPT as well as the treaty's indefinite extension in 1995 and nuclear arms reduction.'

The Asahi Evening News said last night that the 'call for signatories to extend (the treaty) beyond 1995 is expected to generate mixed feelings in Tokyo. While Japan, the victim of the world's only two atomic attacks, has a constitution that renounces war and a government policy against having or using nuclear weapons, government leaders have said that an extension of the treaty could deprive Japan of exercising a nuclear option if it amends its constitution and its policies.'

After much persuasion by the US, North Korea last month retracted its threat to leave the treaty over demands that the International Atomic Energy Agency be allowed to inspect two facilities that it claimed were used for peaceful purposes. The G7 urged 'North Korea to retract immediately its decision to withdraw from the NPT, and to fully comply with its non-proliferation obligations'.

In addition, President Bill Clinton has sought to stave off any Japanese nuclear ambitions by assuring them that the US would protect the region against any threat from Pyongyang.